Monday, June 4, 2012

Budget 101: The Cardinal Rules of Grocery Budgeting

To really get your grocery budget in check, you’ve got to follow a few cardinal rules.

1.  Embrace the generosity of others.

    This is probably the most difficult but the most important rule of all. There is a fine line between enjoying the generosity and taking advantage of it. Every family’s version of this is different. For us it includes participating in WIC. If you are unfamiliar, WIC is a fantastic government-sponsored program for families with young children that provides very basic groceries such as milk, cheese, bread, cereal, beans, and an allotment of fruits and veggies based on financial need. Truth be told this is the biggest source of help when it comes to our overall grocery budget. WIC provides at least another $100 a month to our groceries. It took me a little bit to get over the stereotype I had associated with WIC, but putting my own pride aside, I did what was needed for my family.
    Aside from the generosity of taxpayers, we have also learned to embrace those families who love us enough to share a bit of their blessings with us. If someone invites you over for Sunday lunch, accept graciously and always offer to bring something. If you have a friend who happens to slaughter a cow or have lots of venison left from hunting season and offers you some meat, open up that freezer and allow them to share the wealth. And of course, if your loving parents or in-laws ask how they can help, tell them they can take you to the grocery store.
    Husband and I look forward to the day that we too can pour out our blessings on others, but for now we are the ones receiving the blessings from others. Now on to the other ‘rules.’

2.  Set your budget and stick to it.

    Take a hard look at your finances and see what your average spending for groceries and toiletries have been over the last 6 months. See what you specifically spend on meats, produce, dairy, and dry goods. If possible also look at what meals you prepare on a regular basis. This will help tremendously when you move on to other steps. Now set your budget. Again every family is different, some spend more, some less. We stick to an average of $50 a week. Some weeks are more, some less. Knowing your budget and sticking to it strictly is the key.

3.  Shop with cash.

    This has truly been the money saving tip of the century. Every two weeks I visit the bank and take out the grocery money for those two weeks. When I go to the store I know that that’s all the money I have for two weeks. If the money runs out, I don’t by anything else. When you have that cash in hand it makes you much more aware of how much you spend.

4.  Shop with a plan and a purpose.

    Before I even think about going to the store, I make a plan. I know what stores I will go to, what meals I will make that week, and exactly what I am going to buy. I’ll go into more detail about the planning stages in another post. Basically, in making a plan you can save yourself time and money.

That’s the basics of it all. It sounds so simple and yes, it is once you get the hang of it all. Next post I’ll share how I do my shopping plan. Enjoy your first full week of June!

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